Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/216/9148
Coventry bus drivers say... Fight For A Living Wage For All
OVER 100 Coventry bus drivers stopped work again for two hours on 20 July for an unofficial strike against working conditions and the two-tier pay structure operated by the company.
The Socialist Party in Coventry has been helping the workers who feel that their union, the TGWU has let them down.
A TGWU spokesman has been quoted saying: "The official position of the union is that there is no outstanding issues with the company in terms of pay, conditions and negotiations".
The union has completely neglected the "market rate drivers". They are workers who have been employed since privatisation on lower rates of pay and worse conditions than longer-serving drivers.
But the lowering of conditions and wages for the "market rate" drivers is affecting them all. A divided workforce is good for the bosses.
"LAST FRIDAY about 150 bus drivers held a demonstration at Pool Meadow bus station... Heavily supported by the Socialist Party in Coventry". Coventry Evening Telegraph 20 July.
Barry Ford, one of three drivers who was suspended for "inciting other drivers to take unofficial action" told The Socialist:
"The company want all drivers on the market rate, from £7.69 per hour to £6 per hour. From 34 days holiday per year to 25 days. We also get a worse sick pay scheme and we're the first to be messed about with split shifts.
"The company want to do everything on the cheap, they bought buses that are only suitable for inter-city routes not inner city ones. Drivers are fearful of any bumps and scratches because we can be disciplined, this adds to the pressure of the job".
The drivers have passed a vote of no confidence in the full-time officials who have ignored their complaints.
They also voted unanimously for an official strike to be put to a ballot.
Bill Orchid, a long-term driver, told me that he drove buses in London eleven years ago and got a wage of £17,000 now he gets £11,000 in Coventry.
The TGWU organises drivers nationally but since privatisation has been in retreat from the bosses' offensive.
This is beginning to change as the Coventry dispute shows.
It is not an accident that some of the drivers have turned to the Socialist Party councillors for help just as local council workers and Peugeot workers did last year.
A firm lead from the TGWU could turn this dispute into a national campaign against the big bus companies.
Already some drivers are so frustrated with the lack of a lead from the union that there is talk of transferring en masse to the RMT who also organise some bus workers, or even forming a separate bus workers' union.
These are early days but if the union adopts the approach of the official quoted at the beginning of the article they will find they will have no members left.
Coventry Socialist Party is organising a series of public meetings to build support amongst passengers for the drivers' campaign.
Already over 1,000 have signed a petition for a better bus service.
In The Socialist 27 July 2001: